Saturday, December 29, 2007

Do we never have to suffer the choice?

Was just reading Jill Bialosky's essay at Bookslut, Writing a Suitable Woman: The End of the Novel of Female Despair, and wondering whether women in western culture no longer have to suffer the choice of responsibility or desire.

I think we do; I think that responsibility changes as do our desires, and that at any point in our life we may have to make an emotionally torturous choice between these things. Certainly we no longer find ourselves in the west left bereft of options for making the choice between duty and love, but many of us will suffer for the choice.

Can you think of an example in your life, from your own life or that of your peers, where one needed to choose to stay within a relationship out of obligation or mores, or where one made great sacrifice to choose passion over the predictable? I can think of a number of them -- and more often than not, they chose to suffer in silence and stay in their groove of responsibility.

But a Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina they were not, even if they didn't cleave to the staid and went instead to follow their hearts. It simply takes more than making the choice; it takes observation, introspection, something more to make a life story that is gripping, consuming.

I can't put my finger on it, but I feel there is simply something more to the question Bialosky asks, whether we no longer have to suffer as Bovary or Karenina. Some of us most certainly do suffer, but for what?

Was it for something worth the suffering? Has the subject of our choice somehow changed as well, as much as western women and their culture has changed this last century?

And are any of us worth suffering for, do we inspire the kind of pacing insomnia and sharp yearning that wrack heroes and heroines of literature past?

Are our choices worth writing about, passion spanning hundreds of pages or millions of bits?

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